Ecuador Travel Guide

Galapagos Giant TortoiseEcuador proper is located on the western coast of South America, and offers tourists a diverse landscape and culture to explore. Lying about 1000 km off the coast are the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of volcanic islands that are famous because of the research of biologist Charles Darwin many years ago.

Ecuador’s tourism is alive and well, as people from all over the world come to see the natural wonders and numerous species of birds, plants and animals that are indigenous to the islands.

The Galapagos Islands are all protected as a National Park and a Biological Marine Reserve, and they are all still considered geologically young, with several islands still growing and changing today.

San Cristobal Island is the first one that Charles Darwin visited and it is replete with sea lions, birds, giant tortoises and boobies, of the red and blue footed variety. Marine iguanas, dolphins and gulls also call this island home. The island is home to the largest freshwater lake on the islands, and travelers to Ecuador find this a great place for scuba diving among the coral reefs where turtles, sharks and rays can be found.

Galapagos Marine IguanaOver on Santa Cruz Island, tourists to Ecuador can see the Charles Darwin Research Station, and also see the lava tunnels that show how the island was formed centuries ago. Black Turtle Cove offers the vacationer mangroves, sea turtles, rays and sharks and acts as a mating area for the species. Flamingo Lagoon offers snorkeling opportunities and this island is also the headquarters for the Galapagos National Park Service, as well as being the island with the most human inhabitants.

At 4,640 sq. km., Isabella Island is the largest and is home to the Galapagos penguins as well as the Sierra Negra Volcano and the 3rd largest city on the islands in Puerto Villamil. Los Tuneles offers travelers to Ecuador beautiful lava formations which can be explored on foot allowing vacationers the rare chance to see the indigenous birds nesting, and also in the water where snorkelers or scuba divers can see a vast collection of fish, stingrays and small sharks.

Espanada is the most southern island in the chain and also the eldest, at 3.5 million years old. She boasts two visitor sites, one being Gardner Bay where there are great beaches for snorkelling and swimming and Punta Suarez where many species of migrant, resident and endemic animals and birds call home.

For vacationers that are keen birders, Genovesa Island is the place to visit, as its 14 sq. km. is filled with all different species. Called ‘Bird Island’, the Prince Philip Steps offer visitors a bird watching plateau to better view the many birds who call this island home.

Santiago Island offers visitors the chance to see sea lions, fur seals, turtles and flamingoes while Nameless Island is one that is used primarily for its phenomenal scuba diving sites, both are also among the 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands and 107 rocks that make up the Galapagos Island archipelago.

Quito, EcuadorOver on the mainland, tourists to Ecuador will find Quito, the capital city and a World Heritage Site because it is the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America. The Old Town is Spanish Colonial in style and has arches and narrow, cobbled streets amid the lovely old architecture.

The Company of Jesus Church is a Jesuit church done in the Baroque style and offers vacationers a look at Quiteno-Colonial art. The walls and ceilings are finished in gold guild adding to the ornate interior complete with lavish altars.

About a three hour drive from Quito is San Rafael Waterfall, a beautiful place for travelers to Ecuador to explore. The area is full of lush rainforest and offers people walking trails and of course the waterfall itself that is a quiet change of pace from the city.

The Pasachoa Forest Reserve is a 1000 acre park on the slopes of an extinct volcano. Here visitors are treated to many types of trees, orchids, ferns and other plants, as well as over 100 species of birds and numerous other types of wildlife. The park offers plenty of trails and the chance to look at the magnificent scenery of craters and mountains in their lush surroundings.

Pasachoa Forest ReserveFor family fun, nothing beats Parque Vulqano an amusement park at the foot of El Teleferiqo with lovely views of the city of Quito. Tourists to Ecuador can use a swipe card system for the rides and games which includes a carousel, games of chance and the like, as entrance to the park is free.

Ecuador travel gives the vacationer the best of all worlds. You can explore the architecture and old world charm of the city, or take to the hills (or mountains in this case) to see the rainforest up close, or alternatively travel on to the Galapagos Islands where the rarest of rare plants, birds and mammals call home. For eco-diversity Ecuador is a hard one to beat.